×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag

Touchstone figures to fire a blank into the box office till with "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag," a clever premise that ends up being as bland as its put-upon title character. Director/co-writer Allan Moyle showed some flair with "Pump Up the Volume" and has his moments here, but not enough to rescue "Betty Lou" from a mundane existence in theaters and quick exile to homevideo suburbia. The pic opens today on a regional basis.

With:
Betty Lou ... Penelope Ann Miller Alex ... Eric Thal Ann ... Alfre Woodard Elinor ... Julianne Moore Herrick ... Andy Romano Frank ... Ray McKinnon Beaudeen ... William Forsythe Marchat ... Xander Berkeley Jergens ... Michael O'Neill Brown ... Christopher John Fields Reba ... Cathy Moriarty

Touchstone figures to fire a blank into the box office till with “The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag,” a clever premise that ends up being as bland as its put-upon title character. Director/co-writer Allan Moyle showed some flair with “Pump Up the Volume” and has his moments here, but not enough to rescue “Betty Lou” from a mundane existence in theaters and quick exile to homevideo suburbia. The pic opens today on a regional basis.

Penelope Ann Miller has the title role as Betty Lou Perkins, a mousy librarian who seizes on a found gun–used in the motel-room slaying of an FBI informant–to shake up her pristine image and

become a femme fatale. After all, Betty Lou’s cop husband (Eric Thal) ignores her, her boss pushes her around and her friends can’t picture her having an affair or shooting anyone. So why not use those library-honed storytelling skills to inject a little drama into her life and confess to the crime?

Her girl-who-cries-wolf plot has one deadly drawback, however, in the form of the sadistic mobster Beaudeen (William Forsythe) who fears Betty Lou possesses evidence that could convict him. After some gratuitous demonstrations of his hot temper, Beaudeen eventually nabs Betty Lou’s attorney (Alfre Woodard) to set up a climactic showdown.

The idea of one happenstance discovery changing someone’s life–and completely altering their public image–is a familiar one, but Moyle and writer Grace Cary Bickley don’t lay enough groundwork to make Betty Lou as sympathetic as she needs to be, and the 89-minute production still has time for profound lapses in reason.

The lead character also loses some of her attraction by allowing the deception to drag on after she’s clearly in over her head, causing her husband to lose his job and people around her to be placed in jeopardy.

The one area in which the film does excel resides in its occasionally sharp dialogue and supporting characters, with amusing moments from Woodard as the novice attorney, Julianne Moore as Betty Lou’s hyperkinetic sister and Cathy Moriarty as a helpful hooker. The reliable Forsythe also brings an uneasy sense of menace to his cajun-drawling heavy in limited screen time.

Miller finds herself properlycast again as the girl-next-door type, following her misuse as the high-powered attorney in “Other People’s Money” and an equally disastrous turn in the recent romantic caper “The Year of the Comet.” She’s back on more comfortable terrain–closer to roles in “Kindergarten Cop” and “Awakenings”–and it shows.

Thal, unrecognizable from his recent co-starring role in “A Stranger Among Us ,” is likable as well in the thinly written role as Betty Lou’s husband, though the film presents a somewhat schizophrenic mix of feminist sentiments with the idea that hubby’s approval–and his riding to the rescue–will make everything OK.

As with his last feature, Moyle saturates the film with music, but it makes less sense here, to the point where its hard not to be conscious of it. That score includes the song “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight,” although based on the pic’s limited appeal, she’ll likely be all dressed up with no place to go. Other tech credits are fine in the modestly scaled production.

The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag

(Comedy-Drama--Color)

Production: A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation of an Interscope Communications production in association with Nomura Babcock & Brown. Produced by Scott Kroopf. Executive producers, Ted Field, Robert W. Cort. Co-producer, Ira Halberstadt, Cynthia Sherman. Directed by Allan Moyle. Screenplay, Grace Cary Bickley.

Crew: Camera (Astro Color Labs color; Technicolor prints), Charles Minsky; editors, Janice Hampton, Erica Huggins; music, Richard Gibbs; production design, Michael Corenblith; art direction, David J. Bomba; set design, Lori Rowbotham; set decoration, Merideth Boswell Charbonnet; costume design, Lisa Jensen; sound (Dolby), Douglas Axtell; associate producer, Sarah Bowman; assistant director, Tom Davies; casting, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith. Reviewed at the Avco Cinema Center, L.A., Aug. 19, 1992. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 89 min.

With: Betty Lou ... Penelope Ann Miller Alex ... Eric Thal Ann ... Alfre Woodard Elinor ... Julianne Moore Herrick ... Andy Romano Frank ... Ray McKinnon Beaudeen ... William Forsythe Marchat ... Xander Berkeley Jergens ... Michael O'Neill Brown ... Christopher John Fields Reba ... Cathy Moriarty

More Film

  • Aruna and Her Palate review

    Berlin Film Review: ‘Aruna & Her Palate’

    When mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine and romance are on the table, “Aruna & Her Palate” is a bouncy crowd-pleaser. Less tasty is the backdrop of a suspected bird flu outbreak that brings a food-loving epidemiologist into contact with her secret crush. Adapted from Laksmi Pamuntjak’s 2014 novel “The Bird Woman’s Palate,” “Aruna” manages to overcome its [...]

  • 'Duke' Review: Two Fake Cops Patrol

    Film Review: 'Duke'

    If you can envision “Let’s Be Cops” reconstituted as a noirish psychodrama, you may be adequately prepared for “Duke,” an uneven but arresting indie thriller about two siblings who are driven to heroic extremes by childhood traumas. Co-directed by twin brothers James and Anthony Gaudioso, who also appear in strikingly different supporting roles, the film [...]

  • Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in

    Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film 'Sargasso Sea'

    After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation. “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    France's Cesar Awards Leads the Way for the Oscars

    Since 2011, France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma has steadfastly held its annual awards ceremony the Friday before the Academy Awards. And if launching the Césars two days before the Oscars holds a real, practical benefit — allowing those walking both red carpets time to linger over their last flutes of Champagne before [...]

  • Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to

    Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to Improve the Planet

    Bright-eyed Australian director Damon Gameau set out in his previous movie, “That Sugar Film” to challenge everyday thoughtlessness about the dangers of our modern lifestyle — and became profoundly sick while doing so. In his new film “2040,” which plays in Berlin’s Generation Kplus section and which he styles as a “hybrid feature documentary,” Gameau [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    Writers Guild Sends Hollywood Agents Proposed Code of Conduct

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent Hollywood talent agencies a proposed “Code of Conduct” with tough new restrictions on how they operate as agents for writer clients. The WGA made the disclosure Thursday night in an email to its 12,000 members, a day after announcing that it will hold a March 25 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content